Vatican Denies Benedict XVI Has Serious Illness

The Vatican reiterated Wednesday that Benedict XVI does not have any specific illness apart from the problems associated with old age after a Spanish author claimed the Pope Emeritus must have a grave illness after suffering a “dramatic” deterioration in his health.

Paloma Gomez Borrero, a correspondent at the Vatican, said Benedict XVI’s health had “dramatically diminished over the past 15 days,“ adding that one can only conclude “he must have something very serious.”

“We won't have him with us for very much longer,” she said in a report in the Spanish newspaper ABC. “It is unlikely that the Pope Emeritus will appear again in public,” she said. Gomez made the comments on Tuesday, at the launch of her new book on the conclave called “From Benedict to Francis”. 

The journalist added the Pope’s decision to resign was a "very bitter chalice" for him and that he showed "great humility" in doing so.

But speaking to the Register Wednesday, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said that Benedict “has no illness” and that “the problems are those connected with age.” His comments are consistent Vatican statements on this issue since Benedict announced his resignation on February 11.

Many had noticed how much more frail the former Pope looked when he met Pope Francis last month, and that he had appeared to have aged considerably in the three weeks he had been out of office.

Vatican doctors had noted with concern how he had become much thinner back in January, before he resigned. He had also begun to tire quickly and his personal physician, Dr. Patrizio Polisca, said his blood pressure was having strong fluctuations. He advised the Pope to avoid air travel.

The Vatican revealed in February that Pope Benedict had a pacemaker fitted a number of years ago and his biographer, Peter Seewald, confirmed he was unable to see out of his left eye, creating problems when walking, especially up and down steps. 

Benedict XVI has used a walking stick for the past couple of years because of pain in his right hip and ankle. 

In response to the speculation, the Vatican has regularly insisted that Benedict, who turns 86 next week, is not suffering from anything other than the physical trials of old age. So far, his plans to move into a converted convent in the Vatican at the beginning of May remain unchanged.